The Lovels of Arden is a somewhat gothic, Victorian Romance about the life of a young woman who was raised in wealth and privilege, but who returns home from her schooling on the continent to discover that her life has drastically changed for the worse.
While Clarissa Lovel travels home by train after years away at a private seminary school in France, she meets a handsome young man on the train, one George Fairfax, who lets slip that Arden Court, her childhood home, was sold to pay of family debts while she was gone.
Always somewhat distant from her father, especially since the mysterious dismissal of her brother from the home some years ago, Clarissa attempts to adjust to her new life in a tiny cottage. She tries to behave well and do good in order to gain her father's affection.
A dear family friend, Lady Laura, sees Clarissa's plight and takes pity, offering to make her a guest at Hale Castle indefinitely so that she can mix with other people her age, and see a bit more of the country.
While she is a guest of Lady Laura, Clarissa discovers the identify of her companion on the train, and soon finds herself falling in love with George Fairfax who is hopelessly bound to another woman by a long-standing engagement.
Clarissa knows her feelings for George are wrong, and she is too good a person to get in the middle of his relationship, but George himself attempts to make her stray from her pious resolve, for he too is deeply in love with her.
When Clarissa receives the attentions of the new owner of Arden Court, a good but somewhat older man, Mr. Granger, though her heart hesitates to reciprocate his affection for her, her good sense tells her that this match will not only secure a future for herself and bring her childhood home back into the family, but it should also put a halt to George Fairfax's inappropriate attempts at wooing her behind his fiancée's back.
Mary Elizabeth Braddon weaves a tale of romance and intrigue with heart wrenching narrative and unexpected twists throughout. And the ending is not so predictable as one might expect of a novel from this era.
Best part of story, including ending:
I loved the gothic feel, and the utterly delightful sense of intrigue that always left me wanting to read more.
Best scene in story:
Probably the part where Clarissa and her maid make a plan to escape from Mr. Granger's household.
Opinion about the main character:
She is somewhat naive and flighty at the beginning of the story.